Some essential guidelines to follow when establishing a meditation practice.
Meditate at a regular time-
Within the framework of your daily activities allocate a specific time for your meditations - a time to remain calm, focused and still. This essential self-awareness period is time away from family, business and outer responsibilities. The most suitable times are dawn or dusk when the day is quiet and calm, but if these do not suit, find and maintain a time that does. To assist in quieting the distractions of the thinking mind, it is essential to establish the discipline of regularity.
Choose a location that is quiet. Somewhere inside is best, where you can control the environment; or outside, if there are peaceful environs: a special place that can be set aside for meditation only. This area can be made sacred and purified with flowers, incense, a candle, a photo of nature, or an image of a spiritual Master.
To allow a natural flow of subtle energy, correct posture is essential. Maintain a straight spine and neck, sit erect and keep the body relaxed. It is not necessary to sit in the traditional lotus position. One can meditate successfully sitting in a chair, or sitting on a cushion on the floor with legs crossed. Remember that meditation is a heightened state of awareness, not a drousy 'semi-sleep' state. Do not try to meditate lying down, as this pose induces sleep rather than meditation.
Before commencing meditation, it is advisable to shower or bathe, or at least wash the face and feet. Cleanliness and purity of the body are helpful for full receptivity to a higher consciousness. Wear loose, light coloured clothing.
In the beginning it is advisable not to think about meditating, or have expectations of what you might experience. Simply remain calm and silent. Let go of any thoughts, internalise your focus by concentrating on the path of the breath while quietly inhaling and exhaling. This exercise may seem too simple, but therein lies the secret for your success - true meditation blossoms in utmost simplicity. Maintaining a silent and singular focus on the breath requires sustained concentration. This deep focus opens you to the silent vastness of inner self, free from the disturbances of the limited mind.
Music and Inspirational Writings -
To deepen the experiences of meditation, it is helpful to listen to uplifting music before, during and after one's practice. Meditative music assists in silencing the mind while expanding the stillness of the spiritual heart. Inspirational music helps to elevate one's awareness.
Sri Chinmoy writes -"Music is the mother tongue of humanity. It is through music that we can enter into the universal harmony".
Visualisation excercises -
Focus your awareness on an inspiring image to quieten the mind. It could be the tranquil beauty and stillness of the mountains, the spontaneous joy and sweetness of a child's smile or the rhythmical and soothing sounds of breaking waves on the beach. Employ your imagination to give life and presence to these uplifting inspirations, concentrating on their deepest and purest vibrations, allowing them to heighten your awareness in an ever-climbing and expanding meditative experience.
When day dawns,
Immediately a new light
Enters into my heart.
To slow and still the 'chatter' of the mind, so as to enter into a deep meditation, the repetition of a mantra is highly recommended. Chanting a mantra separates the consciousness from unrelated things. While one's awareness is focused on the sound and vibrations of the mantra, one is able to expand and open to their sublime qualities. Chanting can be done at any time of the day, to help increase one's inner capacities and strength.
The most powerful of all mantras is A-U-M; it is said to be the mother of all mantras. The three syllables each represent a different aspect of God. Taken together AUM is the purest rhythm of the cosmos. When repeating AUM feel that its vibrations radiate outwardly, opening you to the infinite vastness, silence and beauty of the Creator within the creation.
Suggested eye technique -
It is generally easier to commence meditation practice with one's eyes closed, but advisable to progress to 'open-eye' meditation. Closed-eye meditation shuts out external visual distractions and focuses only on inner awareness, but can encourage drowsiness and mental fantasies. In open-eye meditation one relaxes the eye-lids to being half-open, half-closed while resting one's gaze on an inspiring object. Here one's awareness is on both the outer and inner planes simultaneously.
Nourishment-It is recommended to avoid eating directly before and after meditation. If hungry prior to meditation, a snack of fruit or glass of drink is suggested. After meditation, avoiding food for some time encourages the assimilation and absorption of the subtle experiences gained during meditation. Many spiritual traditions advocate vegetarianism. Vegetarian food tends to be light, nutritious and easily digested. It embodies a gentle vibration conducive to maintaining spiritual qualities of one's meditation. Sri Chinmoy's students follow a vegetarian diet.
Maintaining and enhancing a meditative consciousness -
There are many things one can do to enhance the subtlety and depth of one's daily meditative practice. Associate with spiritually aspiring people. Spend time in Nature. Read inspiring writings, enjoy the freshness of energy and sense of well-being while keeping physically fit. Engage in creative pursuits and look for things that bring happiness and inspiration. Try to be self-giving and humble and stay in the consciousness of the heart.
Our inner beauty
The beauty of the morning sun.
Group meditation -
The combined energy within a meditation group can inspire and give focus to one's meditation practice. Thousands of people learn how to meditate, but many fail to continue the discipline at home after attending beginner classes. In the beginning the mind's distractions are still very powerful, and even though one may have the best intentions to maintain a meditation program at home it can be difficult in the early months.
The opportunity to join a meditation centre and attend regular meditation sessions can greatly benefit one's practice. In the Sri Chinmoy Centres around the world all meditation classes are offered free of charge, in the belief that meditation and its innumerable benefits are the birthright of one and all.
To assimilate the subtle energies released during meditation it is highly recommended by spiritual teachers to follow meditation with a period of silent assimilation. This is a time to focus in the spiritual heart before allowing the mind to resume its accustomed activity.
Physical exercise -
Fitness is of paramount importance when seeking the maximum benefits from spiritual practice. Any dynamic exercise enhances integral wellness as it brings focus to the mind and invigorates our whole being with fresh and dynamic energy. This brings inner and outer well-being, a positive outlook and joy. Exercise can be beneficial either before or after meditation.
Starter kit - (check list)
Find a quiet area for meditation only
Meditate in a well-lit room
Place candle and flowers on a low table with cloth cover
Sit on a firm cushion or chair
Use inspirational photo or sacred image
Play inspiring music
Read writings of spiritual Masters
Wear loose, light coloured clothing
Never rush, give yourself time to quieten the mind
Inspiring meditation music: - Radio Sri Chinmoy
Sri Chinmoy's students own and operate vegetarian restaurants around the world.
Physical Fitness and the role it plays in the spiritual life.
For the next series of free meditation classes, contact the - Sri Chinmoy Centre